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History and Transcendence in Adorno's Idea of Truth

Date and Time

Friday, November 3, 2017
3:00 PM - 4:30 PM


  • Mackinac Hall



Friday November 3 at 3:00pm in Mackinac Hall BLL-110 (Basement)


Lambert Zuidervaart

(Institute for Christian Studies and University of Toronto)

Will be giving a talk entitled:


History and Transcendence in Adorno’s Idea of Truth


This paper explores the idea of truth in Theodor W. Adorno’s Negative Dialectics (1996, 1997). Focusing on the book’s concluding “Meditations on Metaphysics,” I show that a dialectic between history and transcendence is central to Adorno’s attempt to articulate a defensible idea of truth, despite and amid the collapse of metaphysics. First I consider the issues of absolutism and relativism raised by Adorno’s insistence on the historical necessity of certain ideas and their demise. Next I show how Adorno addresses these issues via a critical retrieval of Kant’s transcendental ideas of immortality, freedom, and God’s existence. Then I propose a social transformationalist interpretation of the idea of truth that Adorno tries to rescue via his critical retrieval of Kant. I conclude by demonstrating an unavoidable tension between the idea Adorno has rescued and what a viable conception of propositional truth would require. Whereas his idea of truth as a whole rightly emphasizes the nexus of social hope and social critique, his understanding of ordinary language cannot account for the predicative self-disclosure on which correct assertions and discursive criticism depend. Hence he fails to provide an adequate account of propositional truth within his conception of truth as a whole.



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